Altran buys Nspyre, adds 680 advisors in Benelux

20 February 2015

Altran has acquired Nspyre, a technical consulting firm based in the Netherlands. Around 680 of the firm’s employees will be stepping over to the French origin Altran, which will with the move in one stroke become one of the largest technical service providers in the Benelux region. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Nspyre is a management and consulting firm in the area of hightech-technology, software development and R&D. The firm was founded in 2008 through the buyout of the technical automation division of Ordina and the subsequent merger with the Dutch automoation business of Atos Origin (now Atos). The eleven specialised technology units of Nspyre span the entire production process, from consultancy and project management, to development, engineering, testing and implementation.

NSPYRE - Inspiration Matters

In line with the strategic aims of Altran to grow its Benelux footprint, the firm has decided to fully acquire Nspyre. For Altran this is its second large takeover in the region in recent times – last year the firm bought TASS, a specialist in the area of Intelligent Systems (~230 employees). “Nspyre is a perfect example of the type of company Altran is targeting in that it meets the Group’s three acquisition criteria: it offers a comprehensive, cross - industry range of the key technological skills required in all business sectors, as well as a high - margin activity portfolio, and will reinforce Altran geographical leadership positions”, says Pascal Laffineur, Chief Executive Officer of Altran Benelux.

With the takeover Altran Benelux now has a team of 1,800 employees, of which 1,000 are in the Netherlands; the firm’s turnover is expected to increase to about the €150 million*. Key regional rivals in the area of IT and technical services include Brunel, Yacht, Sioux and the integrator practices of the large IT consultancies.

Altran - Suncloud

Brand consolidation?
Nspyre’s current business model is not expected to undergo revolutionary change following the takeover, although the new owner is expected to look for synergies among the services. The current management too will stay in place. Philip van Blanken, head of Nspyre, remarks with optimism on being acquired: “Altran and Nspyre have a perfect strategic fit and share the passion of making a difference through technology. Becoming part of the Altran group was the next major step necessary for our company’s development; it expands our client portfolio, boosts our research and development capabilities, gives us international access and solidifies our position with our customers. We are very excited about the future and look forward to writing the next chapters of our company’s development as part of a larger organisation.”

As part of the integration process, for both Nspyre and TASS, Altran has launched a study into the feasibility of merging the labels into one brand. In the meantime, both businesses will continue to operate under their own name.

* Worldwide Altran has around 23,000 employees in more than 20 countries and a combined income of €1.8 billion.


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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.